Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Equinox

So, I'm in a city where I don't know many esoteric people. I emailed a few folks before I left, and someone wrote back to me. The Alombrados Oasis's secretary wrote to me, and told me they were having a public Equinox ritual, and that I was welcome to attend.

So, I asked when and where it was. They told me the address, and said it would be at 5 am. Since the Equinox technically happened at 5:02 am, I thought "Fine, they're going to start right at the Equinox". What happened next was all my own issue.

1) I thought it was going to be a firm start time of 5 am, and was prepared to be a little early.

2) I thought it was going to be in the ritual hall.

3) I didn't ask any questions.

So, I show up at the address at 5 am, ready to ritual. I have an Esoteric Book Conference t-shirt and my bag, as I'm assuming the ritual space will be rather warm. I'm the first one there. All the doors are locked. Ok, now what? I called some folks, I rang the doorbell.  Nothing.

Eventually, someone came by who opened the temple for me. I was let in, and saw a very impressive set up. Temple, very well done and elaborately decorated. Big library.

Then, a couple other people were showing up. About 5:30 am, the crew had assembled. They were packing up. "Why are we packing up?" I asked, looking around the nice, warm, elaborate temple.

"Oh," says one of the guys, who's names I'll leave out of this because all the reponses are an amalgam of what was actually said, "We're going to go down by the river, near the naval base, and do the ritual."

Ooooohkay.  This was the first moment where I thought I might be the intended sacrifice for the ritual. I made a joke to that effect. The response was not reassuring.

So, I help them load everything in the truck. There's one truck. It's full of tools, so there's only one seat in the truck, and there's 5 guys counting me. One guy rides his bike. The other two guys hold the ritual accouterments, and off we go. I was priveledged to ride shotgun. It's now 6 AM.

We get to the levee, and get out of the truck. In the back of the truck is a model of a barge that's about 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, with 8 little god heads on sticks, and the sticks are wrapped in burlap. There's a black double cubical altar filled with everything we need: Censer, cup, salt, ash, etc.  There's two tiki torches. There's a bottle of kerosene. There's a bunch of food and a REALLY evil looking bottle of brandy with Frankincense, Dragon's Blood and Red Peppers in it. There's also a little statue of Horus. Or maybe it's Ra. Not sure.

The altar has holes drilled in the sides, and there are poles so we can carry the altar. The Priest carries the barge, so the other four of us carry the altar.  Up the Levee, then probably half a mile until we're at the river bank. There are several fire pits, and a lot of trash in the area where we are. The wind is blowing off the river, so it's quite chilly.

The guys assemble the altar: cubical altar in the center, an altar of offering on the east side facing the river, the barge on top of the cubical altar, salt, ash, cup, and censer on the top of the barge, statue of Ra in the middle of the barge. The guys robe up, and me and one other guy are left holding the tiki torches in the pre-dawn light.  It's now about 6:45. I've been up since 4:30, and I'm kind of tired and cranky. Plus, the wind is blowing off the river, and the sun isn't up yet, so it's freaking cold. And I'm there, in my t-shirt.  Earlier, I'd bragged I was from Wisconsin, so with God as my witness, I wasn't going to show the least bit of chill.

The ritual starts about 7:00 am, after some arrangements and discussions about what and who does what. Then, they start. The ritual itself was very well done, but totally not in my tradition. There was a responsorial that I just hummed along with. There was salutations and signs that I knew from other contexts but not this one. There was a performance of what I assume was the Liber Resh.

Then there was an offering of the food, which I partook in. Then the Priest was robed up as Ra, complete with eagle mask. The two assistants robed up with sashes across their bodies, one in a white robe with a black sash, one with a black robe and white sash. Then, there was more responsorial chanting, which I didn't follow very closely, as I was trying to focus my body heat on my extremities. Then there was a meditation.

Then, the priest took a drink of the evil looking brew from the chalice. Then, the next congregant did. Then it was my turn.

It tasted sort of like licking the inside of a censer, with a strong alcoholic back taste, and the Wrath of Emeril as the back taste.  BAM. I only touched it to my lips, and that was enough.

The other congregant started down the steep bank of rocks, so I followed him down to the water's edge. The priest and his assistants carry the barge down, all the while shouting at the top of there lungs: ALLAHU AKBAR. So, the get down to the water's edge, standing on the rocks, and start pouring the kerosene all over the burlap wrapped gods. Some of it spills into the barge.  Allahu Akbar is repeated over and over, at the top of their lungs.

They take the tiki torch from me, and light the barge on fire.  Once it's going pretty well, they push it off the river bank, STILL shouting Allahu Akbar.

We watch the burning barge slowly get out into the shipping lane where the big cargo boats are going. The priest finally stops shouting, and says "I suppose we shouldn't have done this so close to the Naval Base. Think someone will call the Coast Guard? Officer, there were a bunch of guys in robes yelling in arabic and lighting a boat of fire."

So, we climb back up the hill, eat the food offerings, load everything back into the altar, and hoof it back to the truck. I'm pretty much frozen by this time. We drop the stuff off at the temple, and one of the guys kindly takes me back to my hotel. It's now 8:15, and I have to go to the Conference.

So, I really enjoyed meeting the guys,every one was kind, funny, and welcoming. Next time I'll ask more questions about what'll be involved, and what time to show up for the actual ritual, not the prep work.


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